There are two parallel trains of thought when I think about Hocking College. The first is of fond memories. Of the three institutions of higher education where I’ve been a student, Hocking made up what I would call the ‘college experience’ years. I moved away from my hometown, studied abroad, interned at a high-end recording studio, worked at the school’s recording studio, and made lifelong friends in an ugly impoverished little truck stop of a town. Mistakes were made that would ruin my run at politics and defining experiences were had. It could’ve been Hollywood. This is not to diminish my time at Columbus State or Ohio State, but the essence of my experience at Hocking will always feel like a terrible fantasy world that was different from anything else.
The second train of thought concerns scandal and shame. April of 2007 presented the first murder in Nelsonville since the 1970’s. In 2008 I remember then Hocking president John Light having been investigated for embezzling funds for his own vacations. The following school year saw threats of violence concerning race. Student enrollment numbers are dwindling due to the consistent scandal and perceived quality of programs. Four presidents later and the financial situation still that of corruption, as they operate well below the standards of a responsible institution.
But it’s the most recent reason Hocking’s in the news that has prompted me to write this. Convicted rapist of Steubenville fame (yeah… fame…), Trenton Mays has been accepted with open arms to play for the newly established football team. I wonder if that sort of star power will move enough units to dig the institution out of their own financial mess. In truth, giving Mays the opportunity to play ball at the college level awards Hocking the title of ‘rape culture promoter’. His opprotunity to contribute to a college team serves as an award for bad behavior. Two years in a juvenile detention center and Mays has paid his debt to society. I’m simply not convinced.
This is the sort of shame I associate with my alma mater.
Majoring in English has been a labor of love and obsession that has greatly impacted my own creative writing. Having been exposed to a vast array of literature that I never would’ve contemplated reading on my own, I’ve discovered greater potential within myself than my ego had previously envisioned. I wrote the first draft of Tin Foil Hat during my first year at Ohio State. It developed over the course of a semester while I studied Fitzgerald, and more specifically The Great Gatsby under the guidance of a terminally ill professor. He lived with a greater zest for life than the vast majority of the people I’ve encountered by bringing passion to the classroom in spite of his illness, and he helped to remind me of my own confidence concerning the craft of writing. In returning the first assignment of the semester, he opened the notes with, “You may have the best prose style of an undergraduate I’ve ever read,” and then proceeded to tear it all down as any great educator should. On more than one occasion he would answer his cell phone in class, remind the person on the other end that he was in class, and promptly hang up without giving the other party a chance to respond. He engaged and even entertained in such a way as to create an atmosphere that I haven’t since encountered. When he suggested I might’ve been a better writer than him (in front of the class) I couldn’t differentiate between sincerity and sarcasm, but the ambiguity was part of his charm, and his continued words of appreciative encouragement would clarify his intension. The semester ended, and I’ve driven my writing forward with a confidence that I must credit to the push and expectations of David Myers.
I finished the draft, and Doctor Myers passed away last September. The academic year returned me to the full time school/work routine, and my manuscript would wait, backed up on a multitude of scattered flash drives. I would edit during free time, and in between semesters. I would read Woolf, Morrison, Nabokov, Faulkner, Shakespeare, and the vast majority of Renaissance English playwrights, in addition to countless others. My blog suffered due to scheduling conflicts and excuses, as my academic writing would come replace my creative endeavors.
While working on a production of Shakespeare’s Richard II last spring, my manuscript was being picked apart by my editor, Daniel Killinger. The semester wrapped up, and final arrangements were made for publication. In comparing Tin Foil Hat to my first piece of fiction The Blue Moon Catastrophe, I’ve come to find a style that has developed thanks to the time and effort applied to my studies of English literature. The Fitzgerald influence is something I see in a great many scenes, coupled with the scathing satirical style that I still credit to my obsession with the novels of John Niven (in fact, I wrote a paper on what Fitzgerald called ‘The Price of Admission’ which I had first discovered while reading Niven’s Straight White Male).
I’m almost done with my undergraduate studies at Ohio State, and due to my half-time schedule this fall, I will write with confidence that I’ll be blogging with a bit more regularity.
A violent climax is lacking in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. After rereading Gatsby this past winter, I had come to expect a larger horror show to cap his long anticipated follow-up novel. Instead I explored the burden of witnessing a relationship between imperfect people dissolve. The Divers stand in as Tom/Daisy Buchanan type figures, but stir something similar to empathy as the conditions of routine take hold of their unhappy lives, and place them as the central figures of emphasis. Fitzgerald’s prose illuminates a complicated tale of privileged people, contaminated by their own entitlement and spite for one another. The use of language would deliver violent intent, as Dick’s resentment is conveyed, “As an indifference cherished, or left to atrophy,” which enables his desire to, “become empty of Nicole, serving her against his will with negations and emotional neglect” (168). Taking a psychiatric patient as his wife, Dick burdens himself with Nicole’s status as patient, and they both suffer for it. It has Fitzgerald and Zelda’s personal complications written all over it.
Fitzgerald reflected upon himself to a greater extent for this novel than he had for his previous work. The use of alcoholism as Dick’s self-destructive tendency makes a nod to his own lifestyle. Fitzgerald is self aware of the complications of having not published novels with the consistency a mainstream artist demanded, as he projects the notion of such onto a thinly veiled artist of another medium, “he was a musician who after a brilliant and precocious start had composed nothing for seven years” (34)(eight years between 1925-Gatsby and 1933-Tender). Yet in A Life in Letters, Fitzgerald admits he’d rather take his time to create a quality work of literature than pump out some mediocre and yearly scheduled product novel. The end result is something wonderful, and dense, and complicated.